Industry Articles From Kaempf and Harris

Sheet Metal Tools And Trends To Expect In The New Year

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With 2016 coming to a close, the experts at Kaempf & Harris take a look at some of the most anticipated trends and tools that will make their debut in the New Year:

Cordless Tools

A December article from Fab Shop Magazine Direct discusses how many power tools are making the switch to cordless operation. However, can this method work for the heavy duty metal fabrication tools?

"Traditional battery technologies offered by the market leaders do not meet the power requirements," according to the article.

"Either the batteries aren’t powerful enough to handle the job at hand, or they don’t have the longevity to run a normal shift. Even the best performing ones will last only a few minutes removing welds."

The amount of energy that it would take for a cordless tool to perform everyday fabrication techniques on thick metals of fab shops, including stainless steel, nickel, and aluminum, is so high that it would be better to stick with traditional battery-powered methods. 

However, the innovation of contemporary cordless tools has made it easier to perform fabrication work effectively because of strong LiHD batteries. 

"Historically, there has been an inverse relationship between runtime and power delivered by a battery," said Joe Smith, Metabo USA’s president and CEO.

"Both are required to achieve metal-grade performance, however, technologically they oppose each other. Traditional lithium-ion cell technology requires the power output to decrease if the capacity of the cell, or ‘amp hours’ (Ah) is increased."

Other companies, like Tesla, are joining the efforts to create long-lasting, powerful, and reliable batteries for redesigned grinders, push-pull tapping tools, drills, bandsaws, and beveling tools. More than 50 cordless tools are available today for sheet metal fabricators, and the trend is expected to expand in 2017.

New Markets

Branham Fastening Systems, Inc., an international fastener solutions provider in Ohio, predicts which markets will boost the production of steel and sheet metal services:

  • "The electronics industry is expecting a 3.1 percent positive bump in domestic production next year," including custom encasements for laptops and other equipment.
  • "The non-residential construction market is...expected to grow an additional 6 percent in 2017," increasing demand for sheet metal roofing, HVAC, steel supports, and other complementary building products.
  • "New pipelines, rigs, storage containers, and other metal fabricated products are expected to be in greater demand throughout the industry in 2017."
  • A big part of federal spending will consist of airport repairs and construction projects, road repairs, bridges, railways, new stations, and waiting platforms, resulting in sheet metal fabrication jobs throughout.

Self-Cleaning Sheet Metal

According to a June article from United Kingdom-based The Engineer, "European researchers have made a breakthrough that they claim will enable the production of self-cleaning sheet metal on an industrial scale."

Scientists use the Lotus leaf’s self-defense mechanisms as inspiration for the High Throughput Laser Texturing of Self-Cleaning and Antibacterial Surfaces (TresClean, for short) project.

To develop the first fluid-repellent, antibacterial metal surface, the technology harnesses new photonics, which are "high-power laser cutting devices [used] to create a specifically tailored, rough microtopography on sheet metal that…[causes] liquids to be repelled from them." This roughened surface creates miniature pockets of air that minimize the contact area between the surface and a liquid.

The first test phase of TresClean will be in the food industry “to increase productivity and reduce costs in factories that process biological food products,” specifically for vats of milk, which must be cleaned every six to eight hours to avoid the exponential growth of harmful bacteria.

With TresClean, factories will save hours cleaning the vats, which will yield an efficiency increase "from fewer sterilisation cycles and less cleaning time within production as a whole." It also reduces energy consumption, resulting in a quicker, safer, and more profitable process.

"It is possible that any use of metal that needs to avoid the formation of bacteria will benefit from the TresClean product, such as medical cutting tools, sterile surfaces, dishwashers, or even saucepans," said Prof. Luca Romoli from the University of Parma in Italy, project coordinator of TresClean.

From ingenious sheet metal tools to new industry needs, 2017 is poised to be a promising year for fab shops around the world.

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Topics: Tools & Techniques, Sheet Metal Fabrication, Industry

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